A former secretary at Houston firm Coats Rose has filed a lawsuit, alleging the firm failed to accommodate her disabilities and unlawfully terminated her in December 2012.
Lenora Phelps of Houston alleges in the petition that, among many things, she was “put on probation” for downloading and listening to music at work, was told she needed a note from a doctor before the firm would move gnat-infested plants away from her work area and was questioned about her need to use oxygen at work.
“Prior to her disability and illness, Ms. Phelps received numerous compliments on her work product; however, after returning with medical issues, she was treated like a devalued employee,” Phelps alleges in the petition she filed on Sept. 6 in the 80th District Court.
In response to a telephone message and email seeking comment from Richard Rose, managing director and president of Coats Rose, the firm issued this statement: “We are currently reviewing the petition and will respond appropriately once we determine the best course of action.”
Phelps alleges her problems began after she took a medical leave in late 2011.
“Because of her disability and participation in a protected activity, Ms. Phelps was subjected to continued harassment and discrimination, which made it difficult, if not impossible to perform her work in the usual proficient manner,” she alleges in the petition.
Phelps alleges that, although she was put on probation for downloading music while at a co-worker’s desk, “she was the only one being punished for downloading and listening to music.” She alleges that, when she asked if it was because the music was Christian, “her supervisor replied ‘maybe.’ “
Phelps alleges a supervisor told her in December 2012 that she had failed to turn in medical insurance documents in time for coverage, even though she had done so. She alleges she also was told after she returned to work following her leave that she was not to work overtime “unless it was absolutely necessary and they could not find anyone else.”
She alleges management questioned her need for using oxygen at work “and insinuated she only used oxygen at work to be dramatic.”
Phelps also alleges her requests for a work environment “conducive to her disability” were denied, and she specifically was also told that she could not move the plants from her work area because gnats are “just annoying — they can’t hurt you.”
Phelps alleged that her compensation and year-end bonus were also lower than others in her protected class.
She alleges discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. She also alleges the firm failed to accommodate her under the TCHRA and the ADA and unlawfully retaliated against her under the Family Medical Leave Act.
“Defendant’s discriminatory acts include depriving Plaintiff of equal employment opportunities and otherwise adversely affecting her status as an employee because of her race and disability, and in retaliation for participating in a protected activity,” Phelps alleges in the petition.
She seeks unspecific actual, compensatory, exemplary and liquidated damages, costs, interest and attorney fees.
Her attorney, David J. Manley, a Cypress solo, did not return a telephone message seeking comment.